When I first started doing NaNoWriMo I could barely get past the first few days without giving up.
I remember talking about NaNo on my old LiveJournal for the first time in 2005 and how I struggled with the grueling task of writing roughly 2,000 words a day.
That year I didn’t make it past day two.
It didn’t stop me from trying it again in 2006, 2007, and 2008, however. I thought that if I could force myself to write every day and follow the grueling NaNoWriMo schedule, I’d be golden.
It didn’t quite work out that way at first.
In 2006 I quit after 4 days, in 2007 I made it a whole week, and in 2008 I only wrote for the first day and didn’t even make the full word count.
After 2008, I forgot about NaNoWriMo for a long time. I actually didn’t participate again until 2013 when I tried to write A City of Glass and Sand, a novel I still haven’t finished but occasionally go back to.
I lasted 15 days that year, writing a good chunk of City of Glass, but not coming anywhere close to finishing it. With all the work I’ve done on it over the years, you’d think I’d be done by now, but I’m not. The story is only 40,000 words so far and that’s very lacking for a dystopian SciFi novel set in the last two cities on Earth.
So what changed? How have I won the last 5 years of NaNoWriMo and why now in 2019 am I suddenly writing encouraging blogs about it for other writers?
It all started in 2014 when I finished my very first novel-length work. I didn’t do this for NaNoWriMo. In fact, I did it in January-March of 2014 for a Star Wars anthology I was tapped to be a part of.
I had never done an anthology piece before, and they never gave me a length limit so I wrote a 52,000 word novel based on merging the worlds of Star Wars and Aladdin together. It was equal parts terrible and awesome, but after that it was like something in me changed.
Writing a 50,000 word story seemed easier somehow now that I’d actually done it.
I would struggle to write my first original novel, Tranquil, that same November, but I would make it to 51,000 words. Tranquil is nowhere near finished, but…at least I made word count for NaNoWriMo.
The following year, in 2015, I would do it again. Another unfinished slog of a work at 50,000 words with no real ending and it’s one I barely even care about or read, but I proved to myself that I could do this. I could write a 50,000 word work in a month if I stuck to it, tried hard, and believed in myself. As ridiculous as that sounds.
In 2016, it finally happened. I finished a novel for NaNoWriMo. Sure, I’d reached word count the past 2 years with these stories I didn’t love and forced myself to work on, but in 2016 I would write Wixen.
Wixen is the story that started everything for me. This was the first story I ever fell in love with. I pumped out 70,000 words that year for it and then spent the next 2 editing it every few months to the point where it slowly became this 150,000 word book about what it means to have a family.
After that, writing got a whole lot easier. In 2017 I would finish Bloom: A Monster Love Novella for NaNoWriMo and then proceed to write 2 more books that year.
In 2018, I published Bloom on Amazon and then then wrote and published my first Marjorie Diaz Novel. I wrote the second Marjorie Diaz Novel for NaNoWriMo that year and published it this year in March.
Over the past 5 years I’ve written 12 novel-length works. They’re all in various stages of being edited and some of them, while over 50,000 words, are incomplete. I have also written over 100 short stories and novellas in the same length of time.
All this because NaNoWriMo made me believe it was possible to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Having to stick to that regimen showed me so much about myself and what I was capable of.
In the past I was always trying to edit words as I wrote them. I wanted everything I wrote to be polished and perfect, but I learned that the first draft of any work isn’t going to be perfection. Sure, it’ll have some good, but it’ll have a lot more bad. It’s up to you as the author to fix that.
Build upon everything good about your story and weed out every bit of bad. I like to think of it as sifting for gold. In the words you wrote hastily to meet your NaNoWriMo word count for the day, there will be some nuggets of pure gold that you can use to build a better story from the word vomit you’ve flung onto the page.
Get your words out and worry about the rest later. Nobody has ever published the first draft of a book. Fine-tune it first and I guarantee you’ll be a better author for it.
For this reason, NaNoWriMo is important to all of us. It shows us what we’re capable of and even if we don’t meet word count or finish the books we started writing, we still started something and that makes a world of difference.
If you guys want to track my progress or become friends with me, you can find me on NaNoWriMo at Gin-Keros. Because if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that NaNoWriMo is much better with friends.
Today I’ll be posting the first 2,000 words I’ve written for NaNo on my Patreon, for my $1 subscribers.